Spider-Man 2 is one of the more obviously appealing launch titles for the new Nintendo DS, since it's based on one of the year's best, most popular action movies. The game does a fine job of showcasing the new portable's relative power compared with Nintendo's own Game Boy Advance, in that it features an instantly recognizable, very fluidly animated Spider-Man, who's actually a lot of fun to control as he webswings his way around New York, beating up thugs and robots. Yet while Spider-Man 2 sure looks great, it suffers from extremely frustrating level design (and it doesn't really take advantage of the dual-screen layout of Nintendo's new portable, either). Some of these levels can be so annoyingly difficult that they'll make you want to wreck your brand-new Nintendo DS. And you wouldn't want to do that.
If you thought Peter Parker not being able to tell MJ about his true feelings for her was frustrating, wait'll you see this.
You'll play as Spidey in a linear series of chapters that very loosely follow the events of the movie, but also involve battles against supervillains Mysterio and the Vulture, in addition to good old Doc Ock. This is mostly a standard side-scrolling action game, though it features great fully 3D graphics that maintain a beautifully smooth frame rate, despite the good amount of detail in the game's characters and environments. Levels twist and turn in an almost mazelike fashion, but you're always effectively moving left, right, up, or down--there's no true 3D movement. This is fine, since it keeps the gameplay simple and focused, but with some very pleasant eye candy to draw you in. For comparison's sake, the Game Boy Advance could never pull off 3D visuals like this, so it's impressive to see them on a small screen.
Meanwhile, Spider-Man 2's audio is solid but less remarkable. The game's bosses spout a few digitized speech clips, and the random thugs you'll fight cut loose with some great canned scream effects when you send them flying off tall buildings. The music is fast-paced and well suited to the theme of the game, but it's unfortunately cut into short loops, so it becomes highly repetitive and quite irritating after a while. You'll be inclined to turn the volume off, but that's not a good idea--many of the levels require you to locate bad guys or hostages, whom you can hear offscreen if you listen carefully.
As you'd expect, Spider-Man is highly mobile. He can run quickly, jump high, and effectively fly by webswinging from point to point (you just keep tapping the jump button to keep swinging). He can also shoot webbing onto walls in any direction, pulling himself quickly toward that location. Of course, Spidey can fight, too, primarily using a small assortment of punches and kicks. Most of his enemies actually have a longer reach than he does, forcing you to get in very close and then pound on the opponent using the same combos over and over. The fighting looks pretty good, but just isn't very satisfying, especially when your enemies pin you down with a string of cheap shots. One neat trick is that you can trigger Spidey's spider senses while in close combat, causing the action to move in slow motion, though this can be detrimental in the timed missions--the mission timer doesn't slow down when everything else does. Spider-Man also has access to several special moves (most of which must be unlocked), allowing him to throw his enemies using his webbing, shoot web projectiles at him, execute a sliding attack, and more. Again, the character really looks great in motion, and the controls are generally very responsive. The best part of the game, much like in its console counterparts, is how well it captures the feel of Spider-Man's amazing agility.